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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Dean Urdahl (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, April 23, 2021

Dear Neighbor, 

Legislation I authored to restore civics as a priority in Minnesota successfully was amended onto an education package which received approval from the full House this week. 

My measure (H.F. 562) makes civics a credit-bearing subject for Minnesota high school juniors or seniors. This would raise the relevance of the subject in Minnesota schools and mitigate a growing lack of civics knowledge among younger generations.  

We have been on a civics slide to failure for 50 years. Look at what is going on all around us. The failure of civics is evident. To do nothing about this is to extend 50 years of failure and reward ignorance. What we’re doing today isn’t working and we are failing our children. Reports show we are sending 77 percent of our high school graduates into the world constitutionally illiterate, ill-prepared to carry on our republic. 

Minnesota currently requires 3.5 credits of social studies, encompassing at least United States history, geography, government and citizenship, world history and economics to satisfy the academic standards. Civics is supposed to be taught in our schools, but the lack of assigned credit and lack of proficiency suggest there is room for improvement.

There are a few things we know: Most ninth-graders aren’t ready to study civics, civics isn’t credit-bearing in Minnesota as a course and, most importantly, whatever we are doing isn’t working very well.

As important as STEM courses are to our children’s education, there are serious consequences for shorting civics, and we need to find a more balanced approach. My proposal provides flexibility to school boards to help make that happen.

While the statewide gap in civics knowledge is clear, it is even more pronounced among minority students. This might seem like a simple change, but the potential impact is life-changing and this cuts across racial, regional and economic lines. I am grateful for the bipartisan support for my amendment on the House floor because strengthening democracy is an interest we should all share in common.

My language was added to a House education package (H.F. 1065). That omnibus bill is headed to a conference committee that will reconcile differences between House and Senate packages before being considered for final approval in the coming month.

I am encouraged and optimistic, yet more work remains to reach the finish line. I will remain diligent in pursing this until we have the governor’s stamp of approval on this. What we are doing today isn’t working and we are failing our children.

As for other omnibus bills, proposed tax increases at a time of historic surplus remains a major point of contention that will need to be resolved in order to have a new two-year budget in place before we adjourn May 17. Most notably, the House majority’s transportation bill includes $1.6 billion in tax/fee increases and the tax bill has another $1 billion hike.

Those bills also are headed to conference committees and I am optimistic the Senate’s position of not raising taxes at a time the state has a $4 billion surplus (including federal funds) will win out. I also hope we will fully exempt businesses from paying state taxes on Paycheck Protection Program loans that were offered to struggling businesses. It would be wrong for the state to profit off forgiven loans the federal government provided businesses to help keep people on the payroll and stay afloat.